Commission asked to set Jan. 2 public hearing on children’s museum lease

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Commissioners will be asked to set a public hearing for Jan. 2 on the new lease agreement with the Children’s Museum of Montana for the space at 22 Railroad Square.

The museum has leased the space since September 1997, according to city records, and on Dec. 2, 2003, the commission approved at 15-year lease that included an automatic five-year renewal. The original lease required the museum to pay all utility costs, maintenance and repairs of the building and its systems.

Children’s Museum lease likely to be renewed for five years; museum looking for new home

The lease rate was $1 per year and the city’s proposed updated lease agreement for the remaining five years retains the $1 in annual rent.

City Manager Greg Doyon has said on numerous occasions during budget discussions and other public meetings that after the five year renewal term, he will recommend that the city take the building back for office space for various city departments.

Over the years, city departments have been running out of space in the Civic Center and the Municipal Court has been asking for a second judge to help handle the heavy case load. With another judge comes the need for additional courtroom space, which is currently unavailable in the building. In several meetings, the legal staff has discussed the need for more staff and more space. Currently, the legal department is spread in various offices throughout the Civic Center.

The planning department is also spread on various levels of the building.

Children’s Museum launches fundraising campaign for new building

The city retained the services of an architect to rework space in the Gibson Room and renovate the office areas for the legal and human resources departments. Commissioners rejected use of the Gibson Room and “there are no other areas within the building that could be feasibly renovated without encroaching into the Gibson or Missouri Rooms or the Convention Center,” according to the staff report.

The building currently occupied by CMOM “is needed to provide additional office space for city administration. Use of the building makes sense because the city already owns it and it is located adjacent to the city’s administrative center/campus,” according to the staff report. Use of the building “also allows the city to address space needs without additional encroachment of other commonly used areas in the Civic Center and eliminates the need to build an addition.”

City staff looks at options for turning Missouri Room into office space at Great Falls Civic Center

According to Doyon’s staff report, he’s recommending renewal of the lease for five years “with the understanding that the CMOM will pursue other location options over the term.”

Over the summer, the museum launched a $3.5 million fundraising campaign to purchase, renovate and relocate to a new building.

This week, the museum posted a job vacancy for its executive director position.